The United States is an enormous country with a large swathe of landscapes and terrains for you to explore. So, it is no surprise that trekking in the USA is one of the favorite activities for several people.
During the summer, there are plenty of best places to go hiking in the USA for all skill levels. Whether you are looking to treat yourself to a great hike or you want to break up a sweat, there is a trail for you!
Known for its diverse landscapes, the USA is said to be the ultimate dream destination for hikers. You can uncover nearly every type of landscape that you can imagine–desert, mountains, coastline, rainforests, etc. Also, you can find several famous hiking trails that are seemingly on everyone’s bucket list.
Furthermore, there are a few hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered. You can pick your adventure according to your hiking skill level or how far you wish to challenge yourself physically and mentally. Regardless of where you go, there is a spectacular view that will be waiting for you throughout your journey. It is guaranteed.
So, dust off your boots and grab your gear. Get ready to embark on a hiking adventure across the USA with these notable destinations.
Table of Contents
- 1 Top 10 Best Hiking Trips in the USA
- 1.1 Mauna Loa Summit, Hawaii
- 1.2 Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
- 1.3 Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Maine
- 1.4 Lost Valley Hiking Trail, Arkansas
- 1.5 Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
- 1.6 Lost Coast Trail, California
- 1.7 Congress Trail, California
- 1.8 Cracker Lake, Montana (Glacier National Park)
- 1.9 Kalalau Trail /Napali Coast, Hawaii
- 1.10 Mount Roberts Trail, Alaska
Top 10 Best Hiking Trips in the USA
Mauna Loa Summit, Hawaii
One of the most top-rated destinations for hiking trips in the USA, the Mauna Loa Summit in Hawaii, remains the best on every hiker’s list. With the largest volcano in the world, Mauna Loa is a quest that a lot of avid hikers would like to conquer. Many tourists who come here also opt to drive their vehicle, since there is a paved road to get there.
The accessibility of the Mauna Loa summit makes it popular with visitors. Although Mauna Kea is taller, it marks the highest point in the state. The summit of Mauna Loa belongs to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Meanwhile, its trail is the longest and most popular one for those who would like to conquer this peak, for this is one of the best hiking trips in the USA.
While you will be on a long trail, it is not overly steep or difficult. But you can expect the trail to be hot as there won’t be any shade throughout your hike. You will find a couple of cabins to stay in for the night if you wish to extend your trip.
Generally, the trail has a total roundtrip distance of 69.5 km, which can be completed in 3 to 4 days, depending on your pace. This is assuming you spend time in the summit cabin. If you opt for a recommended overnight stay in the Mauna Loa summit, make sure you register at the Kilauea Visitor Center to get the latest information on the summit trail.
The Mauna Loa Summit is located 13,000 feet above sea level. To reach its peak is a great accomplishment, which is why it is a well-known American discovery trail. Make sure to pack the right gear, such as warm clothes and sun protection. Also, come prepared for altitude sickness.
A permit of $10 is required on top of the park entrance fee to hike and camp Mauna Loa. For stays beyond seven nights, an additional $10 permit is required. This fee needs to be settled before you go on your trail.
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
The Half Dome Hike is considered by many as one of the best day hikes in the US. With a length of 22.7 km roundtrip via the Mist Trail, this hike can take approximately 10 to 14 hours (depending on your pace). This is a strenuous level hike, so it is best reserved only for the expert hikers.
When you reach the peak, you will be 8,842 feet above sea level. The Half Dome Hike is the most prestigious and coveted trail in Yosemite. It is iconic because of the unique shape of the dome itself. While an extremely strenuous trip, many tourists seek out this trail for trekking in the USA because of the many beautiful sights along the way.
As you navigate the steep granite domes, you will pass by Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall. There are also wooden planks and steel cables that have been installed to assist hikers, especially during the summer months. Be sure to take a photo of each scene since the view is stunning.
To get a permit to hike the Half Dome, a lottery is done. Only a maximum of 300 hikers is allowed each day. To enter the lottery, you need to pay $10 (you can do this online or via phone). The lotteries are done two days before your intended hike date, so you will be notified beforehand if you are allowed to hike on the specified date.
Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Maine
For those looking for long-distance hiking trails, the Appalachian Trail is one of the best hiking trips in the USA and a must-add item to your list. This trail spans the state of Georgia and crosses to Maine, making it the world’s longest hike trail. This is one of the most historic trails in the US. Thus, it is sought after by true-blue hikers.
The north-bound trail (with Georgia as the starting point and Maine as the endpoint) spans a total length of 3,500 kilometers. The typical duration of this hike could be five to seven months. But for experienced hikes, it can be completed in 50 days. If you would like to take full advantage of this hike, it is the best time to savor it as there are plenty of must-see destinations and points of interest along the way.
There is no need to pay a fee to hike the Appalachian Trail. Also, the trail route passes through numerous state parks and public lands, some of which might charge an entrance fee or require permits. If you plan on camping at some point in your hike, there might be corresponding fees for those, as well.
Hikers embark on this trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia and end up on Maine’s Mount Katahdin. One of the highlights during this hike are the Appalachian Mountains, which the trail is named after. Ultimately, the highest point to reach is the Clingmans Dome, and the lowest point is the Bear Mountain, State Park.
Lost Valley Hiking Trail, Arkansas
As one of the most popular hiking trails in the state, the Lost Valley is a must-do for avid hikers. The picturesque beauty of the area is beyond compare. The path is sprinkled with views of clear lake waters, natural bridges, caves, waterfalls, and virgin forests.
With a total distance of 3.3 km, the trail can be completed in two hours. It is a relatively easy trail to explore, which makes it suitable for beginners. There is also wheelchair access on various points throughout the trail. Plus, there are plenty of benches that you can take a rest on along the first half-mile of your hike.
Known as a heavily trafficked trail, especially during the weekends, you may want to head for the trail early. But if you visit at the right time, you can find many spots for some solitude. There is also no cost associated with this trail, so you can hike anytime you wish.
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
Another destination to add to your list of hiking trips in the USA is the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail. This easy hike features a moderate incline. Moreover, the view of the Makapu’u Beach makes the climb worthwhile, along with the crystal tide pools and waves that brush the shore.
As you head towards the summit, there are two lookout points that you can and should stop at. You will find a plaque dedicated to naval aviators that crashed in 1942 at one of them. You are lucky, if you a spot humpback whales, too. The entire trail stretches to a length of 3.2 km.
This is a relatively short and easy hike that takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. You can also take more time to complete this route if you decide to stop along the way to enjoy one of the many great viewing spots. The beautiful coastal views are part of the reason why it is deemed as one of the best places to go hiking in the USA.
Lost Coast Trail, California
With a trail spanning 40 miles on rugged terrain, the Lost Coast Trail in California is highly sought after by avid hikers because it is the only remaining untouched portion of the state’s coastline. It is also one of the last few coastal wilderness hiking experiences that you will find in the US.
This trail is divided into two sections: north and south. The northern part is the more popular one as you can pass through the King Range National Conservation Area, along with the Shelter Cove and Mattole Beach. You can complete the Lost Coast Trail in three to four days, depending on your pace or experience.
The most rugged terrain experiences variation between vertical gains and losses along the way. There is currently no recreation fee for those willing to hike the Lost Coast Trail. But there is a reservation fee worth $6 per person. Be sure to settle this fee before you proceed with your hike.
Congress Trail, California
Being a favorite hike site, the Congress Trail is one of the top destinations for trekking in the USA. Specifically, this trail is located within the Sequoia National Park. It is a paved loop that commences at the world’s largest tree–the General Sherman Tree.
The trail is five km long, and it is moderate traffic due to its popularity. If you proceed on the trail with minimal breaks, the whole trail can be completed in two hours. This makes it one of the best day hikes in the US. But you can allot more time when you want to see the sights along the way.
Since this is the only paved trail in the area, it is relatively easy to do the hike. This means that the trail is perfect for all beginners. Besides, there are opportunities to spot wildlife and an immense collection of giant sequoias.
Cracker Lake, Montana (Glacier National Park)
When visiting Glacier National Park in Montana, the Cracker Lake trail is one hike that you cannot miss. This trail is 19.3 km long with moderate traffic. It is rated strenuous when it comes to its difficulty level so that it might be best suited for experienced hikers. The best time to hike this trail is from May to October.
Some of the highlights of your hike at Cracker Lake include spectacular views of the lakes and mountains. Also, there are great views of waterfalls, wildflowers, wildlife, creeks, and some mining ruins. If you have more time to spare, you can also take a swim in the turquoise water of the alpine lake.
Kalalau Trail /Napali Coast, Hawaii
As one of the best hikes in Hawaii as well as in the US, the Kalalau Trail /Napali Coast remains one of the most amazing. With a trail that runs at 18 km in length, it offers spectacular views of the Napali coast in northwestern Hawaii. The trail starts at Ke’ e Beach and ends in Kalalau Beach. Depending on your hiking skill, this trail can be completed in five to six hours.
This particular trail is the only way you can access this part of Hawaii’s rugged coast via land. During the hike, you will make your way through five valleys and be in awe of the towering cliffs. Once you reach the sea level at the end of the trail, you will be able to enjoy the pristine beaches of Hawaii.
The trailhead for the Kalalau Trail now has a daily site visit limit. For this reason, visitors who wish to embark on this trail must make reservations online beforehand. You need to pay the park entry fee of $1 (along with a $5 parking reservation fee if you bring your vehicle). Your reservation is only suitable for the time and date specified.
Mount Roberts Trail, Alaska
If you are looking for top hiking trips in the USA, add Mount Roberts Trail to that list. It is recommended as one of the best hiking trips in the USA. Located near Juneau, Alaska, this alpine trail is a favorite of avid hikers for its gorgeous wildflowers, alpine trees, rocky ridges, glacier bays, and subalpine ecosystem. This is a well-marked trail that is suitable for all hiking levels.
Generally, the entire trail is dotted with interpretive markers. This means that you can learn more about the features along the way. You can hike this trail without a fee. The Mount Roberts Trail is approximately 7.2 km long, which can be completed in four hours (if you want to reach the summit). The trail to the Mountain House is shorter, which can take up to 1.5 hours.